Thursday Thoughts: Better Math Instruction and more!

Good morning!  Ready to talk about math?

I just thought I’d do a quick post this morning to share out some of the knowledge from the all day conference I attended yesterday with Tim Kanold.  If you aren’t familiar with his work, he is the “PLC” guy–and really has a math focus.  He is a great presenter and the day was very enjoyable.  I didn’t hear a ton new since we have been studying his books for a few years now, but it was a great day to sit and reflect on my own practice and how to better consider what I am doing as I plan over this summer.  If you haven’t read any of his work, I would REALLY recommend it!

A few takeaways…and, in his mind, non-negotiables.

1.  He states very definitively that no less than 65% of your math class should involve student to student discourse.  Not teacher-student or student-teacher.  Student to student.  I am a HUGE believer in this so 65% doesn’t shock me at all…but I know that is a HUGE shift for some people.  Watch for a later blog post where I give some suggestions on how to increase discourse in your classroom!

2.  One of the biggest factors in student achievement is formative assessment.  I have always been a firm believer in this so at first I just nodded affirmatively…but I kept listening.  He really stressed that “doing” formative assessment (ex. exit slips, fist to five, thumbs up/thumbs down) is doing nothing for student achievement until we USE it and take action on it.  He is totally right…and I DO use the information I get from entrance/exit slips.  But do I use the information I get while observing and doing other less formal assessments?  I’m not as sure.

3.  To piggyback off of number 2, he said the biggest work we should be doing in the math classroom is presenting students with rigorous, deliberately chosen tasks that they work on in small groups.  We should then be circulating and observing and coaching–spending no more than 30 seconds per group at a time.  Whoa.  I need some time to sit and process on all of that!

4.  Part of the day we looked over some of our assessment tools that we brought along and analyzed them according to his rubric.  Here’s some food for thought for you…how many of you identify the learning targets in kid friendly language right on the assessment?  Is it clear to your students WHAT is being assessed and how it is being assessed?  Do they know how much each problem is “worth”?  For example, is every problem given equal weight or are some problems worth more?  Do they know why?  Interesting stuff to ponder…
5. Finally, he stressed the critical nature of the Standards for Mathematical Processes…something else I am a HUGE believer in.  He talked about the importance of identifying learning targets as you plan (and this planning should be done with your team–still need to think about THAT piece more!) that are both process and content standards.
Anyway–it was a very invigorating day…I need to pull out his books and do some more reading, but I definitely know I’m going to try to beef up my formative assessment practices next year–starting with finding a better way to record and organize anecdotal math notes during these collaborative work times!  Here is one of his books if you want to browse…he also has PLC books by grade level band.

Finally, I’m super excited to announce that the electricity unit I started 9 months ago…then worked on a little…then got frustrated…then worked on a little…then ignored.  Finally, I pulled it back out and gave myself a deadline and it’s FINISHED!  If you are looking for a new resource to help with your electricity unit–check it out.  I really tried to create something that could be used whether you use a textbook, a science kit, or if you have nothing at all.  
Suggested art connections…
Tons of interactive notebook components…
Flexible enough to use in  number of ways!
See what you think! 


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